'Fortnite' at E3: How The Battle Royale Stole the Show

Fortnite is dominating the world. Epic Games' zombie shooter turned battle royale is on top of the live streaming charts, making hundreds of millions of dollars a month and is the focus of conversation in most middle school classrooms across the country. For a game mode that's been around for less than a year, the explosive growth is jaw-dropping.

Epic Games showed up in force this year at E3 2018 at the LA Convention Center, further cementing its place on the top of the battle royale hierarchy. Starting off the week, a port for the battle royale was announced for the Nintendo Switch during the company that Mario built's press conference. Fans can now download the free-to-play title on every major console, PC and iOS device, with Android compatibility coming soon. Epic Games doesn't need to prove its worth, but the LA con was a chance for it to show how big its balls truly are.

fortnite llama
Ride the mechanical llama. Newsweek

On the corner of the South Hall, it's hard to miss the giant "Fortnite" letters hovering over a full-sized replica of the Battle Bus. Hundreds of people waited in hour-long queues to play a game they have at home, all for a chance at getting a branded foam pickaxe and to buy exclusive merchandise only available at the con. Vendors handed out popcorn bags while cosplayers wearing the game's signature skins danced around the lines of enamored fans who paid $250 a ticket. Dance contests happen periodically in the front of the booth, while a llama version of a mechanical bull bucks riders in the back.

Instead of having a traditional press conference like Sony or Ubisoft, the company that birthed the Unreal engine decided to have a Fortnite tournament. But it wasn't just any normal game, it was the Fortnite Pro-Am. Celebrities like Joel Mchale and Marshmello, were paired with content creators like Ninja and Markiplier, all for a good cause. The total prize pool was three million dollars (donated to your charity of choice), with one million going to the victor.

pro am
The poster for the Pro-Am event Newsweek

The Bank of California Stadium was decked out in Fortnite swag, with loot llamas, cosplayers and free booze flowing smoothly. Blue slushies with vodka, labeled "Slurp Juice" after an item in the game, helped make the event feel like something extra.

Fans (and their parents) waited out in the blistering heat of the field for hours while they waited for the game to start. The determination on their part to see this spectacle was admirable, if not completely baffling. Watching from the air conditioned press room in the upper levels of the stadium, I found it hard to comprehend why anyone would take the time to boil to see Lil Yachty. But then the tournament actually started and I was reminded how popular Fortnite actually is.

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Ninja and Marshmello won the whole event Newsweek

There were three games of Fortnite: two practice matches (one solo and one duo) and then the charity royale. On Twitch, the stream broke the concurrent viewer record, topping in at just over 700,000 viewers. There were another 300,000 on Ninja's stream and 100,000 on Daequan. In total, there were at least two million viewers watching the finals of the Pro-Am Eventually, Ninja and Marshmello managed to take the whole thing, making the crowd go wild.

After the event, a lucky few were invited to attend the Pro-Am after party. I was not one of the chosen, but I showed up late and managed to wiggle my way in. Inside, were replicas of a lot of Fortnite's classic locations, disco balls hovering over dance floors and free pizza and In N' Out. Ninja tried to walk the floor, but was bombarded by fans at nearly every turn asking for a picture. For more than 20 minutes, he entertained every request proving that he's a genuinely nice guy. At around 11 P.M., Logic performed, bringing the hype of a cramped battle bus with him. The one time Ninja said the N-word on stream was singing along to a Logic song (that didn't have the word in it) which I found kind of ironic.

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The crowd gathered to see Logic Newsweek

If loud music wasn't your thing, you could ride the mechanical bull loot llama, take a picture hovering on a glider or just hang out and get drunk. I chose the latter, gawking at the extreme lengths Epic Games went to to have the coolest party at E3. On the way out, attendees received a bath bomb, socks, pins and an exclusive E3 spray.

In my opinion, Fortnite was one of this year's big E3 winners. It stuck to its guns, capitalizing on the popularity of its title while also building hype for new fans. The battle royale isn't going anywhere, so just enjoy your Slurp Juice and watch the fireworks.